Last night at Wilton Manors' Hagen Park was the debate of the election season. I do not know of any more opportunities for people to have heard their future elected officials speak before they get a chance to vote.
Looking around the space, I noticed that this year there were fewer people in attendance than there were in the last election of 2008. Partly because Barack Obama and the chance to reclaim our nation from the Fascism that was the Bush years energized us with Hope. Partly because early voting meant many have made their decisions and are sitting this night out.
This was for those of you who haven't voted yet. The early voting is at the Commission Chambers at City Hall, 2020 Wilton Drive, Wilton Manors. I believe that it is available for people through the entire county. The chambers look strange without the rows of chairs waiting for a commission meeting and rows of little blue plastic stalls and they will remain that way until November 3rd. My suggestion is to go vote and beat the rush.
Last night we were able to hear everyone speak off the cuff. They were given questions and timed on their responses. Commissioner Scott Newton and I seem to be cut from the same cloth - we're both wordy. It was amusing to hear him get cut off by the person holding the stop watch, Nick Boyko. There were a couple times where Scott found his muse and really got into the subject and then "TIME!"... I wouldn't have minded hearing him speak just a little longer on those.
This is what I saw from the front row, it is my opinion and nothing more. I was not paid for this, although I did have some people who are local readers who are not running for office insist that I write my thoughts down. I will reiterate, THIS IS OPINION, AND UNPAID. THIS IS NOT TO BE CONSTRUED AS A POLITICAL ANNOUCNEMENT.
There were two on the panel that were less comfortable than the famed Nixon vs JFK Debates or the "I am not a crook" Speech by Nixon.
Mayor Gary Resnick looked out of place. For someone who has had the position for two years, he has been widely seen as a dysfunctional and ineffective mayor. Admittedly I find his recent actions at the Spirit Vigil reprehensible when he turned the vigil into a political rally. I am ashamed for his lack of propriety in that situation. Last night he proved that he was not up to the task. His nerves were showing strongly as he sat there fidgeting through the two hours of the debate sweating as if it were overheating - it was not, I was freezing , and darting his eyes around as if he got caught with his hands in the cookie jar. He was as he always was and the City has noticed his antics. Hopefully this will move him onto his next career. Answers that were given were highly reactive instead of pro-active, indirect and evasive he acted like that smacked dog that flinches when you pet him.
The other person who did not belong up there was Julie Carson. If Resnick's electioneering at the Spirit Vigil were reprehensible, Carson's actions were obscene. That having been said, she had to do something to tone down her hard edges, she truly looks like someone who is out to get someone. Of course that is all bravado. Carson is an empty suit. She would get started talking and you would quickly realize that she doesn't know what on earth she is talking about. This person would be a disaster if she got elected. The circular logic and incompetent reasoning had me wondering how many gallons of cheap coffee she swilled before getting up on that dais. There was a rhythm to her speech. She'd get started to speak and rapidly run out of steam doubling back and second guessing herself. This is a behavior I witnessed when she was mistakenly on the City Commission before and she would hack into somebody and trail off into complete confusion. This person has nothing to add to the discussion of City Government and needs to go back to her day job - clearly, Julie Carson is Unsuitable for Public Office.
The Four Year seat is currently up for grabs. There are two positions and three people that are running for the office. In contrast to the incompetence of Gary Resnick and the completely unsuitable Julie Carson, I found the three running for the Four Year Seat to be a pleasant discussion among people who were content to be with each other and hash out problems in a co-operative manner. It came out that the newest to the bunch, Steve Zollo was actually coached to run for the office by current office holder Ted Galatis (no website). It is hard to argue when your competition thinks that you belong in the post. Steve and Ted both are joined by Scott Newton, an affable business person who is always entertaining while he explains away some arcane piece of public policy in a way that is engaging and will be easy to understand by someone who is not as involved as I or some of the other volunteer corps are. Ted Galatis brings to the discussion the precision of his Lawyer's background and rounds out the triplet.
The other person running for the Two Year seat is Celeste Ellich. Celeste is a warm and caring individual who I have had the privilege to know for the last four years. She has run before and tells people in her own "home spun" style that she has some problems with public speaking. I'm going to ask Celeste to stop saying that because after watching Celeste in action, I aspire to be as good a public speaker as she was. Celeste was the equal to the best up there and brings to the table a depth of knowledge that only someone who has more than 2 Decades of Public Service in a volunteer capacity could. Celeste's knowledge of the Real Estate market will be a strongly needed asset to the City Commission especially in view of the G Resort controversy and the future zoning changes that will be needed in moving the City forward as a Jewel in South Florida instead of our lurching forward under the current administration like a ship without a rudder. Celeste will bring stability and deep consideration of issues with her. I highly recommend anyone to get to know this person, I am truly happy I do.
I have saved the best for last. Joe Angelo. Joe was easily the strongest speaker last night. Listening to Mr Angelo was like listening to a concert violin virtuoso playing a Stradivarius. Well thought out, and often humorous anecdotes would pepper a discussion that illustrates a deep understanding of current, past and future challenges to the City. I found it particularly instructive to watch the others on the panel when Joe spoke. I noticed them listening intently at what Joe had to say for something that they missed, and I caught each one at one time or another nodding in agreement. Joe has an openness that is quite refreshing and a willingness to listen to people. While he may not agree with what you are saying, he certainly will give you the opportunity to state your case and when you are through you will understand exactly why he feels the way he did and the thoughts that were necessary to come to his conclusions. Like his election ribbons say "Go Joe!". Joe Angelo will be a wonderful and energetic Mayor, and that is exactly what we will need to clean up the mess of his predecessor.